I went to see Twilight 3 -- excuse me, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse -- the other night and, not having seen (or read) the first two installments of Stephanie Meyer's rather popular series, I asked the teen-age girl next to me whether I might have trouble understanding Eclipse.
"Oh no, not at all," she said.
And, in a way, she was right. The dynamics were immediately obvious, in terms of the relationship between Bella (Kristen Stewart) and her two antagonistic suitors, Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner). Icy, formal boyfriend versus hot-blooded passionate one. Stand-offish versus needy. Vampire versus werewolf. What's a girl to do?
But a lot of the politics of the vampire world -- and the vampire-vs.-werewolf world -- kind of got past me. So I went back and indulged myself in a double feature of the first two Twilight movies.
Which answered the question of why the red-haired vampire (who, when she slowed down long enough to get a look at her, turned out to be Bryce Dallas Howard, though she wasn't in the first two films) was trying to kill Bella -- and creating an army of newly minted vampires to help her. The newborns, as they are called, have a frenzy for killing that takes a while to control. So they're stronger and more unpredictable than the troupe of vampires guarding Bella's life in the town with the unlikely name of Forks.
If you drop the whole supernatural thing for a moment, however, Eclipse is just another teen-age soap opera about the love triangle between Bella, Edward and Jacob. Everything else - even the attack of the army of newborn vampires -- is just so much filigree on the story of a girl, her boyfriend and the guy who can't take no for an answer.